I had to look up the phrase ‘drop your pants’ to make sure that it does have the same meaning as it does in German. I don’t think it does, so let me explain.
In German ‘dropping your pants’ means something akin to showing your hand (in a card game). Lay it all out for everyone to see.
I’m sharing this because it’s a great strategy when you get caught up running circles in your head instead of being in the moment.
Let me tell a story.
Some 8 or 9 years ago, when I started trying to improve my social skills, I drove to the city to go and hang out at bars. My goal was to strike up conversations with random people and just see where it goes.
My very first night didn’t go very well. And that’s an understatement.
I did not talk to a single person (except the bartender to order a drink) until I decided to call it quits and leave for the train to go home. At the train station, I saw this girl standing there and thought she was cute. So I said ‘Hi’ to her (after hesitating for a few minutes).
And then I said… nothing. I just stood there very awkwardly for the next 10 minutes. It could’ve been even 20 or 30 minutes. I don’t really know anymore, only that it felt like an eternity.
Then her train arrived, she got on and left me still standing there.
What the hell did I just do?
Stories in your head
I was stuck in my own head. Thinking of things to say, playing out the scenarios in my head.
I became more and more hesitant and awkward, the longer this went on. It felt like I’ve missed my window of opportunity by not following up with anything. And that’s probably true. But the longer I waited to say anything, the chance of me finally saying something became smaller and smaller. I’m pretty sure I was calculating the odds of me saying something in my head back then as well.
I felt miserable. I came out specifically to practice my social skills and I butchered the only real chance I got that night… so far.
Because, luckily, the story doesn’t end there.
After a little more waiting, my train also arrived and I got on. This is the last train going from the city, so it’s usually pretty full with people coming from their parties. I sat down and just hoped that I wouldn’t be bothered by some drunks. Then, a group of 3 came and sat with me. Two girls and one guy.
One of the girls was very bubbly and forward. So she started talking to me. What was I doing in the city? Did I go to any party? How come that I’m alone?
She was very warm and friendly, so I felt like I could open up to her and her friends.
“I feel that I lack social skills and I have a hard time connecting with people. So I came out because I wanted to challenge myself and talk to some people for practice.”
After I said that, the dynamic of the whole conversation shifted.
The two girls gave me a lot of support. Telling me that they’re really impressed by my humility, honesty, efforts and that I shouldn’t feel so down. Because I’m actually talking to some strangers in this very moment!
By ‘dropping my pants’, I was able to have an amazing and engaging conversation with these random people on the train. The girl even gave me her phone number when she had to get off.
The power of being vulnerable
Thrilled by this experience I went out again the very next night.
Problem was that the next night was on a Sunday, so there were practically no people hanging out at the pub I went to. The only people there was a guy sitting at the bar and the bartender.
The guy was an expat from Denmark working for a car manufacturer. He’s usually going to the pub to enjoy the pub quizzes. On this particular day, he felt a bit bored at home and decided to go out just for the fun of it.
The bartender was a girl from Australia. She was doing a working holiday trip for 6 months and got the job by recommendation of a friend that she met in town.
Now, you might be asking yourself how I know all of this information about those 2 people. The day before that I wasn’t able to talk to a single person in the bar.
And to be honest, it didn’t go that well this time either. At first.
But then I remembered my experiences from the night before. What’s possible if I’m feeling stressed and under pressure in the momentum and I just share that with others.
The two of them were actually playing Yahtzee together. So I just went up to them, shared my mission for the night and asked whether they would let me join their game. And they did. They even restarted their game so I can play immediately.
We had a great night together. The bartender came last in the game and bought a round for us.
It’s incredible what can happen if you just drop your pants sometimes.